The push for human cloning continues around the world. Sure, most people say they do not want to see humans cloned, but they do want to see cloned embryos for research purposes. Yet as I and others must keep reiterating, the two processes – therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning – are exactly the same, at least at the outset.
Both utilise the exact same process and both end up with the same result: a newly cloned human being. It is just that in so-called therapeutic cloning the human is killed very early on so that the stem cells can be extracted for testing, research and so on. In reproductive cloning, this new embryo would be allowed to develop, be implanted, and eventually be born.
It is vital that people understand these facts, as there is a lot of hype and misrepresentation about the two sorts of cloning. In this regard, an older (October 8, 2004) article put out by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Chicago is worth revisiting. It nicely lays out the case as to why cloning must be opposed.
Written by John F. Kilner and Robert P. George and entitled “Human Cloning: What’s at Stake,” the article makes the case for a complete ban on all forms of human cloning. The authors begin by noting what the cloning process will produce: “A human individual brought into existence by cloning would be a member of the species homo sapiens. He or she would possess a human genetic structure and a rational nature. There is no reason to suppose that such a person would not possess the same basic dignity and be endowed with the same fundamental rights as everybody else.”
As such, cloning should be prohibited: “At the deepest level, cloning should be prohibited because it turns procreation into a species of manufacture. It treats a child-to-be as an object of production. In the words of Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, cloning ‘threatens the dignity of human procreation, giving one generation unprecedented genetic control over the next. It is the first step toward a eugenic world in which children become objects of manipulation and products of will’.”
They continue, “Cloning also carries high risks of bodily harm to the child produced through cloning. Experiments in the cloning of animals reveals that a high percentage of clones of any mammalian species are born with, or develop, severe deformities or abnormalities. Indeed, Dolly the sheep, the most famous of all cloned mammals, was afflicted with a grave premature arthritis.” In fact, Dolly had to be put down prematurely because of these problems.
The article then focus on the two sorts of cloning: “Of course, some people try to distinguish ‘reproductive cloning,’ that is, cloning to produce a child, from what they call ‘therapeutic’ or research cloning – the creation of human embryos for experimental purposes in which they would be killed to harvest stem cells. This, however, is a false distinction.”
“All cloning is reproductive. A human embryo – the being created by human cloning – is nothing less than a human being in the earliest stages of natural development. You and we and everybody else on the planet were at an earlier stage of our lives human embryos, just as every reader of these words was once a toddler, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus.”
Furthermore, “no cloning is, properly speaking, ‘therapeutic.’ Cloning in the cause of biomedical experimentation is of no benefit to the subject of cloning, namely, the cloned embryo. On the contrary, that embryo is killed for the putative benefit of others.”
That is why a ban on all cloning must be demanded. The only way we can prevent cloning to produce children is if we see it all banned: “A mere prohibition of the implantation of cloned embryos will not hold up. There will be no effective way to prevent embryos created by cloning from being implanted in the prepared uterus of a willing woman.”
But what about the possible cures and therapies that might be derived from therapeutic cloning? “Of course, this is a worthy end; the ethical problem is with the means they propose to use. It is not simply that supporters have grossly hyped the “therapeutic” value of cloning – although this itself is an ethical issue inasmuch as it has unfairly elevated the hopes of many people suffering with neurodegenerative diseases and other afflictions. Let us not forget that the worst research atrocities in history have resulted from succumbing to the temptation to pursue scientific progress at the expense of a relatively small group who have been harmed in the process.”
Nor will considerations of sacrificing some for the sake of others suffice here: “The utilitarian idea that we can justify doing ‘a little’ evil for the sake of a ‘greater’ good should be firmly rejected. The norm that should control our scientific ethics, and our law, is the principle of the inherent dignity of every human being, irrespective of age, size, location, stage of development, or condition of dependency. Human beings – from the embryonic stage to adulthood – are always ends in themselves, and must never be treated as mere means to other people’s ends.”
And this must apply across the board: “This principle of inherent dignity should be applied with no less force to the cloned human being who is brought to birth and dwells among us. Once a human being exists, he or she is of no less value or dignity by virtue of the wrongful means by which he or she was brought into existence. Just as a human clone should not be killed before birth, he or she should not be discriminated against or in any way mistreated after he or she is born. The great political principle of human equality, rooted in the profound theological idea that men and women are made in the very image and likeness of God, demands no less.”
At stake here is the very notion of what it means to be human, and what is the value of human life. If we are to be sacrificed as research fodder for possible good ends, what of the means? It is one thing to voluntarily give oneself up for the sake of others. But to experiment on an unwilling victim, as an embryo is, is a violation of the basic principles of human medicine.
There are always debates about where we should draw the line. Surely the integrity and sanctity of human life must be one area where a line is clearly drawn and never violated.